A frisson of amusement caused the corners of Dumbledore's eyes to wrinkle as young Harry began grinning in a manner not unlike his father. He might not have made the connection were it not for Minerva's complaints in the last week or so- he did his best not to judge his current students by the parents he had taught before them. Harry seemed to get into more than his fair share of problems he admitted, if perhaps not quite so many as James, but his Deputy Headmistress had been reassured in the fact that he did not seem to cause them.
She was less assured after the past week or two and had begun taking steps to prepare should the worst happen (in her words). He assumed that meant a new set of Marauders coming into their own at the same time as the delightful Weasley twins.
Coughing lightly, he asked, "Have you had the opportunity to Apparate before, Harry? Guinevere?"
A hissing comment stemmed from the poor blind girl and was responded to by Harry a moment later. Dumbledore was quite tempted to try a touch of Legilemency to pick up on what the boy was saying, but he held off. He would not go so far as to say that he had never used the skill on a student, but idle curiosity and a desire to learn were not valid reasons to his mind.
He would simply have to find another route to learn Parseltongue over the summer. The diary that young Harry had presented him had confirmed several of his more dire predictions requiring Voldemort and he suspected that it would be a necessity to pursue his research further.
If it also happened to allow him to understand conversations that were taking place between students, well, that was simply happy fortune.
"No, I haven't, Professor Dumbledore."
Interesting. He would have expected a question about what Apparition was from a second year student who had grown up in the Muggle world. A tidbit dropped by the estimable Miss Granger? His eyes flicked briefly to Guinevere. Or perhaps the girl understood more than they had expected. Given her age he had thought she spoke Old English or another variant on their language so divorced from modern dialects as to be a separate language.
No matter, a puzzle for another time. He put on a slightly grave expression and let his voice assume an apologetic tone. "I am afraid this may come as a slight shock then. Apparition can be a discomfiting experience and the first time is frequently the worst."
"If you would not mind, please give me your hands and we shall get it over with post haste." He held out one hand to Harry and another to Guinevere and was interested to see the girl's tongue flicker out not unlike the serpent she had recently been. Her hand went to his not quite unerringly, but certainly with less fumbling then one who had been recently blinded might be expected to incur.
The details of Mr. Potter's accidental transfiguration were something he quite wished he could take more time to study. Even after they had dismissed the possibility of human transfiguration, the duration of the original and the traits that the girl had kept made for a fascinating case study. Alas, the recent activity of Voldemort and the insights his diary had meant he would not have the time to do so himself.
He had given Minerva permission to observe the girl surreptitiously though and he looked forward to her observations when they returned for the next school year.
When Harry's hand had found his as well, displaying perhaps less than the perfect trust of a child in his hesitance sadly, he simply said, "Brace yourselves." Giving his young charges a few seconds to do so, he went through the steps that were second nature after a hundred and more years of Apparating and found himself on the street outside Number 4 Privet Drive.
Letting the two young people's hands drop, he briefly flicked his wand into his hand and performed a complex series of movements that ended with an array of runes fading into sight as his vision was tinged with purple at the edges.
While he had instruments that measured the wards in his office, it was good to take a direct look himself periodically. The Notice-Me-Not charm that he had cast upon himself, Harry, and Guinevere before he even spoke to the pair of children was visible, but he dismissed it from his consideration.
Harry in the mean time, had bent over and was gasping. "That was awful!"
Guinevere patted him on the back sympathetically, but was looking quite pale herself and swallowing convulsively.
"Well done though, my boy. And Guinevere as well, of course. Many end up vomiting after their first experience with Apparition."
"I can see why," Harry said between gulping deep breaths of air. "Does it get better?"
"One grows accustomed to the sensation, certainly." Albus smiled as the two children began conversing rapidly, Harry's excitement growing now that the worst of the effects had passed. Taking that moment of distraction as an opportunity, he turned his attention back to the blood wards on the property and their interaction with Harry.
He was surprised to find them stronger than he would have expected after the boy had been away from his family for the full school year. While not drastically outside of the norms he might have expected, they were markedly higher than when he had validated them the year before.
Possibly a result of Harry not having a direct encounter with Voldemort this year? That was a concern, if so, as it implied they might be broken should enough strain be put upon them towards the end of the year.
Dismissing his spell after a moment, he made a mental note to look into the matter sometime during the summer and turned to the pair. Harry had what he would judge to be a mixed expression on his face, but marched up to the door after a moment and knocked. Dumbledore and Guinevere followed behind.
When the door finally opened, a somewhat rotund boy was looking out of the door. Blinking, he stuck his head out the door and looked to either side before shrugging and closing the door. Harry watched this with a somewhat bemused expression and immediately knocked on the door again. The process repeated itself when Harry knocked again immediately, his young charges chortling at the reddened face of the boy as he slammed the door shut after yelling something rather uncouth. Guinevere knocked this time as Harry was too busy muffling his laughter.
When the door opened this time, Dumbledore cancelled the Notice-Me-Not charm. Eyes widening at the sight of Harry and presumably himself and young Guinevere appearing out of nowhere, he shouted, "Mum! Harry's here and he's brought those magic people!" He then turned and ran, holding his hands over his rear for some reason.
Petunia walked out of the kitchen, her face tight and pinched, and her son hid himself behind her.
Stalking up to the door, he noted her step falter as she noticed him standing behind Harry, but she soon got hold of herself and resumed her determined progress. "Well, I can't say I was expecting you. Thought it would be those redheads dropping the boy off. Have another child you wish to pawn off on us?"
This elicited a snicker from Harry and Petunia eyed him sharply, and then her eyes caught on Guinevere as she finally came close enough to see her slightly to one side of the door and widened in alarm.
Dumbledore smiled apologetically, but he didn't get a chance to say anything as the woman blurted out, "No! Never! You won't foist another child off on us and then just go your merry way!" Her eyes narrowed and she actually reached out and poked him in the chest. A raised eyebrow caused her to pale and snatch her hand back, but she continued on nonetheless. "I'm certain this one's not Lily's get and I've no reason to take her in, let alone try and explain it to Vernon."
Smiling one of his most genial smiles, Dumbledore said, "If you wouldn't mind letting us in, I can explain everything and I'm sure you'll understand the need."
"No! You stay out there. You're not to come a step into this house!"
Harry grinned again, somewhat slyly he though, and said, "Really, Aunt Petunia? You're sure?"
His aunt gave him a sharp look, her eyes lingering somewhat distastefully on the rather splendid purple and puce robes he had purchased a week or two ago, and Dumbledore watched with some interest as she paled when young Mister Potter leaned forward and whispered something to her. The woman's eyes flashed beyond the trio at her door and her face flushed before she stepped back and pulled the door wide.
"Fine then. Hurry, in the living room only if you please!"
Her son immediately ran, pulling open a smallish door in the hall leading to the kitchen and hiding behind it, perhaps a cupboard or something. He thought there might be a story to the skittishness, but unfortunately all too many Muggles felt that way when exposed to the Wizarding World. Perhaps a bad experience with Harry's accidental magic when he was younger.
Guiding young Guinevere with a single hand on her shoulder, Dumbledore made his way into the living room and guided her to the couch then took a seat himself. Harry on the other hand stepped aside upon entering the room and leaned against the wall as if he wanted to be able to see everything. His lips were twitching again and he received a sharp glare from Petunia as she walked in and sat across from the other pair.
Choosing his words with some care, Dumbledore said, "It is a pleasure to meet you face to face again. I believe it was at Lily and James' wedding that we last spoke."
This provoked a sour expression from the woman across the coffee table and he abruptly recalled that there had been some type of kerfluffle with her and her husband. Perhaps not the best memory to bring up. He moved on.
"Now, to begin I would like to introduce you to young Guinevere. She has, I am sad to say, experienced some difficulties and was recently rescued by Harry here."
"And what does this have to do with me?" Petunia's tone was a touch petulant and Dumbledore was surprised again by the prickly woman's reaction. Perhaps he shouldn't have reminded the woman of that night. If he recalled correctly, Sirius Black had been involved in the prank played upon the Muggle couple and given the ties he later showed to the Death Eaters... well, perhaps it was something more than he had been told at the time.
"I am getting to that." He took a slightly more conciliatory approach. "You see, Guinevere here speaks a language that very few in the world understand." True enough and the major reason they had even decided to approach this in the first place. He would rather not put the girl through another three months of social isolation without whatever buffering effect the transfiguration might have provided. "Your nephew is one of them. The only one that we are familiar with and have ready access to, in point of fact."
"Harry? Harry speaks another language?" Her tone was sharp, disbelieving. "He's never been exposed to anything but the Queen's English. Where should he have learned it?"
"Ahh, a long story perhaps in its entirety, but in short, he picked it up from his first year Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor." Dumbledore's eyes crinkled slightly and he felt his lips curve into a slightly self-satisfied smile. It was perhaps a touch of hubris, but he still delighted at times in a clever turn of phrase or making a truth serve a purpose perhaps not quite in its natural wheelhouse. A failing of his, but not one that he had significantly improved upon since his younger days.
He thought perhaps that Harry had caught it, he was the only one in the room equipped with the knowledge to do so, but it caused his aunt to scowl regardless. "I don't believe it!"
"Pardon?" Outright denial of his statements wasn't something he was particularly familiar with after all these years. Even his staunchest opponents in the Wizengamot typically attempted to undermine him in methods that didn't call into question his authority or honesty. At least to his face.
"I said I don't believe you." Petunia huffed, her eyes narrowed. "The boy has shown no academic aptitude at all during his time with us. I hardly think he could pick up an entire language in one year."
Raising an eyebrow, Dumbledore said mildly, "Perhaps the wrong fit in schools then. From what I understand, Harry is doing quite well at Hogwarts." This was said almost simultaneously with an offended and prolonged series of hisses from Guinevere.
The latter drew a startled gaze from Mrs. Dursley. "Why... why is she hissing?" Her chair scooted back slightly as she drew away from the basilisk turned girl.
"Hissing? Ahh, I'm afraid you misunderstand. That is the language that I spoke of with you." This statement drew another incredulous stare from the young woman. To be fair, he understood that as this was... while true, even more misleading than his last statement. And his next comment was going to be rather exaggerated. "Not unlike Ubykh," he stated, thoughts flashing back to a time somewhat before the great war when he and Gellert had encountered one another in Eastern Europe. The memory was understandably bittersweet, but they had spent some time in a village in the Ottoman Empire where the language was spoken extensively and it did have its share of sibilants. Alas, the end of that month had done little to convince him that Gellert had changed and quite a bit to lead him towards the conclusion that his old friend was as dangerous as he had feared.
Putting the thoughts of the man currently imprisoned in Nuremgard behind him as they always made him rather melancholy, he smiled at the Muggle woman in front of him placidly even as she sputtered.
"How can you say that with a straight face, you... you..." Her eyes flicked down to the wand he still held out and then she slumped. Abandoning the attempt, she spun on Harry and pointed one long bony finger in his direction. Perhaps a bit unfairly for her, Harry interrupted with a prolonged series of hisses that made the woman pale and actually made Guinevere laugh. Petunia's arm slumped again and he thought he heard a sharp intake of breath from the hall where Harry's cousin was presumably eavesdropping.
"There you are." Dumbledore clapped his hands, smiling broadly at all involved. "As you can see, Harry can in fact speak with Guinevere. I will take my leave, but should you have any problems at all, do be sure to send an owl and I'll get back to you as soon as possible." He stood up, brushing his hands off and putting his wand away with a practiced motion.
At his words, Petunia jumped to her feet, eyes wild and panicked and shouted, "No! Never! We... we haven't the room you see. And... and the money. Certainly the budget won't bear another mouth." Her lips pursed together, her eyes daring him to refute her words. He thought it possible, but refrained. He was certainly far from an expert on Muggles. The home was certainly larger than the one he had shared with his mother and Ariana in Godric's Hallow. Though that was over a hundred years ago, he supposed that standards might have changed.
Bringing a hand to his beard, Dumbledore gave this some thought, his hand stroking the white length. "I could certainly see the space being an issue. Let's see about fixing that and then I can get out of your hair."
"What?" Petunia blinked at him and he thought back to the little he had seen of the house. Recalling the door that the portly boy had been hiding behind he swept out of the living room with a redfaced Petunia chasing close behind followed closely by Harry and then Guinevere. Harry's cousin rapidly fled up the stairs as approached and Dumbledore made a mental note to find out what had so spooked the boy. He rather prided himself on being avuncular and easy to approach for children.
Opening the door, he leaned down to peer into the small space, then turned abruptly and said, "An unused cupboard under the stairs it appears?" Petunia's face drained of color for some reason as Harry choked and she simply nodded slightly, appearing faint. Perhaps he should have Pomfrey stop by to ensure the women didn't have a condition of some kind. If her face was any judge she appeared to be having hot and cold flashes or something of the sort. At any rate, taking the nod for permission he pulled his wand free again and took no little time examining the space with the careful eye of a Transfiguration Master.
Glancing past the woman, he looked over Guinevere and decided the door was a touch short for the girl, particularly if she should come back here next year after growing. A wave of his wand fixed that, the door shooting up to a height of perhaps six feet. With a few taps of his wand he shifted it further to the left so that the stairs didn't have such a hump and then nodded to himself and turned his attention to the interior. An extremely complicated little twist, swish, and dip of his wand allowed him to apply a most adequate Extension Charm upon the interior of the closet and it expanded into a room perhaps twenty foot by twenty foot. Certainly spacious enough for a young teenager to live in he thought.
An additional wave of his wand caused the walls to assume a pleasant shade of green with cedar paneling covering the lower half of the wall. A few more transfigurations took advantage of the spiders that were rather prominent in the closet to create a bed, a small chest for clothing, and a few other odds and ends that might be needed in a bedroom. The few items that had been in the closet were swept up into a free-standing cupboard and he slid his wand back into his sleeve before turning to Mrs. Dursley and beaming at her.
"There we are. Space all taken care of, I believe." The woman's eyes were bulging now and he decided he certainly needed to send someone to look her and the others in the house over. Particularly after his next words caused her to start choking, not unlike Harry had earlier. "No need to thank me, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention the Extension Charms to the Ministry for awhile yet. I'll need to backdate the forms, but I'm sure we can get all of this on the up and up quite soon."
Casting back, he recalled the other item she had mentioned was money. Not atypical nor unwarranted he supposed. "I would think that the allowance you receive for Harry should be sufficient for Guinevere as well, but I suppose it could be supplemented. Hogwarts certainly owes something to Miss Lyonesse."
Harry surged up, staring at Petunia with wide eyes and pointed accusingly as he opened his mouth. This time he had to deal with being interrupted, however, as Petunia exclaimed, "We never! I should certainly know of an allowance if we received one."
"Really? Perhaps your husband hasn't informed you?"
Petunia very nearly hissed herself and he wondered absently if perhaps Harry's Parseltongue wasn't partially hereditary after all. "I should think not! Vernon and I share everything. I would certainly have heard about checks for the boy's room and board." She continued muttering to herself afterwards and he thought he caught parts of it. "...certainly be hearing less... cost of food... schooling."
Dumbledore frowned. It did appear that there was some confusion here. He wasn't sure what the checks mentioned were. "Well, I am fairly certain that the Ministry said that the stipend for Harry being your ward would be deposited into your Gringott's account."
"Our what?" Petunia stopped yelling, looking puzzled. "Why does that sound so familiar..."
Harry by this point was looking beyond confused, and spoke up. "Why would Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon have an account with the goblins?"
"That's it!" Petunia pointed at Harry, her voice holding a note of triumph, no doubt acquiring the memory for which she had been searching. He was unfortunately familiar with the satisfaction that came from chasing down an elusive thought. As much as he would like to claim a perfect memory, he couldn't do so in good faith. Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to the mistress of the house as she continued. "We wouldn't let the boy's father make fun of us with that poppycock about goblins and gold, we'll certainly not allow you to do so!"
"Madam, are you telling me that you are not aware of your own Gringott's account?" Dumbledore watched and listened with some bemusement as the young woman continued to protest and argue about the reality of the Wizarding bank with her nephew jumping in to try and prove it until the boy finally stopped the whole thing by rooting around in the trunk he had left by the door and pulling out a handful of change- a few galleons, perhaps a dozen sickles, and some knuts.
It was at this point that the door rattled for a moment, then swung open, actually hitting young Guinevere and forcing her back a step. "Sorry there, Dudders, didn't know you... were..." Vernon Dursley trailed off as paused in the doorway, taking in his wife, Harry, and Dumbledore himself standing near the door. Voice hardening, the large man started to purple as he spoke up again, "What are you doing in my home? What is the boy doing here again, I thought we didn't need to pick him up."
"Yes, because I was dropping him and young Guinevere here off myself. I thought to save you a trip. I was in fact, just about to leave." He cast a quick Tempus Charm and nodded to himself. He was certainly running late for his next meeting, this would need to be wrapped up shortly. The ambassador of Bolivia was not a patient man and he needed his support for an upcoming bill in the Wizengamot.
Harry, who had rushed over to his new friend when she was jostled by the door, gulped and said, "Ahh, Guinevere, Uncle Vernon." He pushed the girl out in front of himself slightly, but kept his hands firmly on her shoulders in support. The girl herself waved with a bright smile on her face.
Dumbledore smiled himself at that and added, "We were just discussing what would be required for her to stay with young Harry here." Petunia wilted slightly as Vernon gave her a hard stare, but before she could protest, he added, "We were just discussing the possibility of increasing the allowance you receive for Harry in fact."
"The what?" Vernon appeared as distracted by this as his wife and Dumbledore endeavored to explain the concept of Gringott's Wizarding Bank to the man as succinctly as possible. When the wizard had finally finished though, with no few interruptions, the man finally appeared to be calming down slightly and was less red than he had started, he said. "So this goblin whatsit actually exists? The boy's father wrote a supposed apology... I tore it up afterwards, started out okay, but he mentioned opening an account for us. Belated wedding present of 50 ships of the line or something, which was obviously just mocking-" He stopped, eyes bulging as Harry held up a galleon.
The boy grinned. "Maybe 50 galleons?"
"Where did you steal that, boy?"
"I didn't steal anything, it's from my vault. At Gringott's." He smirked and held it out to Vernon fearlessly, despite the increasing flush to the man's face at the expression. Still, he didn't stop at snatching the coin out of Harry's hand and examining it closely.
Vernon's hand almost shook as he held the coin, noted its weight and looked up at the rest of those in the room. Dumbledore thought the man looked a bit calculating as he looked from the coin, back to Harry and Guinevere and then back to the coin. "How many of these did you say we'll get as an allowance?"
"I believe you receive 10 galleons a week for Harry, half as much again for Guinevere seems fair enough. 15 galleons a week while the pair of them are staying at Number 4 Privet Drive." While not a tremendous amount of money, it should certainly help to defray the costs for the family.
Vernon took a moment, his lips moving and occasionally folding over a finger. When he looked up, his face was almost eager, quite possibly the most positive emotion he had seen on the man's face since he walked through the door. "We'll do it!"
Petunia gaped at this exclamation, but Dumbledore decided it was time to leave before more questions came up. He really was running quite late. Nodding slightly, he gave Harry and Guinevere one last smile, then said, "In that case, I will see you at the beginning of the school year, Harry. Guinevere." Turning on his heels, he Apparated, leaving the somewhat eclectic family to sort things out on their own. He had a Time Turner to borrow from Saul if he wanted to make his meeting. One more bit of paperwork to be done after the fact, but Harry's safety was worth it.